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FINLAND closed its last remaining border crossing with Russia yesterday amid rising political tensions with its eastern neighbour.
The decision to shut the entire 830-mile border was taken on Tuesday by the cabinet of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, which accuses Moscow of using migrants to wage “hybrid warfare” in a bid to destabilise the Nordic country after it joined the Nato military alliance April this year. The Kremlin denies the allegation.
Finnish authorities claim that some 1,000 migrants without visas or valid documentation have arrived at the border since August, with more than 900 in November alone.
The migrants come from countries including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen and the vast majority have applied for asylum in Finland after crossing the border, authorities said.
Finland accuses Russia of deliberately ushering migrants to the border zone, although Finnish Border Guard deputy commander Ville Ahtiaine told reporters that no migrants had attempted to enter Finland across the frontier yesterday.
The seven other crossing points were closed by Finland earlier this month, escalating tensions between Helsinki and Moscow after decades of pragmatic, friendly relations between them.
Those ties were broken by Finland’s May 2022 decision in May 2022 to join Nato, in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine that started in February of that year.
Asked to comment on Nato allies allegedly planning to deploy troops at the Finnish-Russian border, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters yesterday that “no-one and nothing is threatening Finland,” calling the move “excessive.”
At the same time, he warned that “tensions may arise during the concentration of extra troops on our border.”
“We view the concentration of troops on our border as absolutely unprovoked and unfounded,” Mr Peskov said. “The Finns need to be clearly aware that a troop build-up on our border will pose a threat to us.”
No Nato soldiers are permanently stationed on Finnish territory, but there are foreign troops taking part in the Western alliance’s regular exercises with the Finnish military.
Some experts believe that Mr Peskov referred to EU border agency Frontex, which has dispatched staff and equipment to help Finland’s border officials.
The complete border closure is due to last for at least two weeks. A rail crossing between the two countries remains open, but only for freight trains.
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